Jim Casada

Sportsmen take center stage Thursday

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is holding a meeting Thursday in Lancaster on the state’s proposed new deer hunting rules.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is holding a meeting Thursday in Lancaster on the state’s proposed new deer hunting rules. MCT

Two events of interest to area sportsmen are scheduled for this week. Unfortunately both are , Thursday.

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association will hold its annual Greater Piedmont Chapter banquet at Events at Manchester, 1965 Cinema Drive in Rock Hill at 6 p.m. Tickets – which include a year’s membership in the association – are $50 for a single, $75 per couple, or $250 for a sponsor. Call Chris Gedert at 248-431-3253 for tickets.

The South Carolina Waterfowl Association is 28 years old and it differs from most conservation organizations because it focuseson a single state as opposed to being regional or national in nature.

The organization has installed 22,000 wood duck boxes,and offerseducation on conservation for some 75,000 youngsters through Camp Woodie. Each year the association is helps add 75,000 to 100,000 waterfowl to state populations.

The annual banquet is a key component of the association’s fundraising.

This year’s event promises to fun, camaraderie with like-minded sportsman, fine food, and the opportunity to participate in various raffles along with silent and live auctions.

The same evening at 7 in the auditorium on the campus of USC-Lancaster, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources will hold a hearingon proposed changes to the state’s deer regulations.

The hearing will focus on Senate Bill 454, which was filed and passed by the Senate in its last legislative session. The bill is now in the House and will be considered when the new legislative session begins in January.

Senate Bill 454establishes a limit of four antlered bucks per year and requires that all deer be tagged. The Department of Natural Resources said such regulations are needed because of a dramatic decline in deer harvests. According to the department harvest numbers have dropped as much as 35 percent in recent years. This may well be true, although absent detailed checking data it has, in this writer’s opinion, no solid, verifiable scientific basis.

That beings said, there is no doubt that deer numbers are down appreciably in many parts of the state. Department of Natural Resources biologist attribute the decline to schanges in forest management, what they consider extremely liberal kill limits over recent decades, and the ravages of coyotes.

I think the third factor weighs far more heavily than forestry practices or liberal harvest limit. We’ve been inclined, as a state, towards pine monoculture for a long time. While deer limits are unquestionably generous, very few hunters overall take anywhere close to the number of deer they are allowed annually.

On the other hand, anyone who spends much time in the woods knows that coyote numbers have skyrocketed. These canines breed rapidly, are consummate hunters, and maybe the ultimate survivor. Many years ago a biologist suggested that “when the last man on earth dies coyotes will be there to lick his bones.” That was his rather dramatic way of indicating how adjustable the animal is in terms of habitat and just how well they survived under all sorts of conditions.

Coyotes seldom kill an adult whitetail unless it is crippled or sick, but they are devastating to fawns. They have made inroads on our whitetail numbers and consideration of how best to address this is part of what this hearing is all about.